A dolphin calf entangled with fishing line was freed of gear and released by a multi-organization team.
Several reports and observations since mid-August near Naples, Florida, indicated that a young dolphin had gear around its flukes. The dolphin was unable to shed the gear on its own, and it was becoming deeply embedded in the animal’s flukes. This entanglement was hampering the dolphin’s movements, and if not removed, it would likely sever the dolphin’s flukes, posing an obvious threat to survival.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the federal agency responsible for protecting dolphins, asked SDRP to lead a rescue-capture to assist the dolphin.
We worked with NMFS to organize a rescue team consisting of 42 people, and 8 boats. Collaborating organizations within the region (up to 290 miles away), included the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office, SDRP, Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), University of Florida, and SeaWorld Orlando.
Bad weather caused delays, but the team finally converged early on the morning of November 18th near Ft. Myers Beach, where the dolphin had been observed by CMA in recent days. Within an hour, the highly experienced net fisherman from the SDRP dolphin health assessment projects was able to encircle the mother and calf with a net in shallow water.
Within 7 minutes of when team members had the young male calf in hand, the gear was removed, the wounds were examined and cleaned by a veterinarian, a long-lasting antibiotic was administered, and the calf was marked with a small tag on its dorsal fin. Upon release, the dolphin was last seen swimming off strongly with its mother.
The calf’s fluke had been entangled with monofilament and spiderwire fishing lines, along with fishing tackle which was fouled with algae and barnacles. The gear weighed 1 lb 6 oz! It had acted as a sea anchor, cutting nearly halfway through the dolphin’s fluke.
Now free of this gear, the veterinarians have every expectation that the young male will make a full recovery (and hopefully will have learned to avoid fishing gear).
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